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Baby Promise: A Plan To Provide Quality Early Care And Education Opportunities For Oregon’s Infants And Toddlers

August 27, 2018

This blog post discusses the launch of an Oregon pilot program called Baby Promise, made possible by the Child Care and Development Block Grant Funds. Baby Promise is a new initiative that aims to serve communities where there is a dearth of quality, affordable, accessible infant and toddler child care options, particularly for low-income families and other priority populations, such as families experiencing homelessness or those in the child welfare system.

The new Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funding represents an enormous opportunity to improve access to and quality of child care for infants, toddlers, their families, and the teachers and programs that work with them. With funding from the Pritzker Children’s Initiative, a project of the JB and MK Pritzker Family Foundation, the BUILD Initiative is organizing a series of webinars and blogs in partnership with ZERO TO THREE and the Center for Law and Social Policy for state policy leaders, decision makers and advocates. Information on the series, including blogs, webinar registration, archives, and CCDBG resources can be found here.

By Miriam Calderon, Early Learning Systems Director, Oregon Early Learning

Oregon is experiencing a true crisis in infant and toddler child care. The state lacks a supply of quality child care options for our youngest children. The data shows that every county in our state, except for one, is a child care desert for infant and toddler care. In these deserts, families experience long wait lists, limited choices of providers, and costs of care that rival the cost of college tuition, among other stressors. Our current system isn’t targeted, stable, or substantial enough to bring about a sustainable supply of high-quality infant and toddler care.

The new Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funds provide an opportunity for Oregon to launch a pilot of Baby Promise, a new initiative that aims to serve communities where there is a dearth of quality, affordable, accessible infant and toddler child care options, particularly for low-income families and other priority populations, such as families experiencing homelessness or those in the child welfare system. Baby Promise will offer what families want and need – quality, affordable infant and toddler child care in a variety of settings that honor parent choice and preference.

The Concept

Baby Promise is based on the following premises:

  • Creating a system of Infant-Toddler Specialists to provide supports and professional development for networks of providers who are participating to ensure implementation of quality, relational care.
  • Building salary guidelines and standards associated with infant and toddler care best practices will result in adequate compensation for providers; contracting will allow us to ensure that salary guidelines are implemented.
  • Targeting will ensure reach into communities with an extreme shortage of child care as well as access for priority populations
  • Contracting will allow us to be intentional about building sustainable, quality infant and toddler slots over time, and address the need to reimburse providers for the true cost of quality infant and toddler care.

Why it Will Succeed

Baby Promise is grounded in many lessons we have learned from Preschool Promise, Oregon’s model for a publicly-funded, high-quality preschool system. Preschool Promise provides us a path to emulate. The state initiated this pre-K program in the 2016-17 school year. Preschool Promise leverages high-quality, local, and culturally-relevant early child care and education programs and makes them available to children living at 200 percent of the poverty level. By incorporating a mixed-delivery approach which recognizes that high-quality early learning experiences can take place in a wide variety of settings, Preschool Promise provides opportunities for families to access and choose the preschool setting which best meets their needs. Like Baby Promise, Preschool Promise uses contracting, networks of supports for providers, and builds in salary guidelines and quality standards.

Tailored supports are provided through the Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) system. All the providers participating in Preschool Promise are receiving supports through their Oregon’s early learning hub as well. They were supported in becoming SPARK-rated (our Quality Rating and Improvement System), which is a requirement of being a Preschool Promise provider. In a short period of time, Oregon added 1,300 quality pre-K slots, a quarter of which are based in family child care. This approach ensures that Oregon is reaching children where they are, in their preferred environments, while wrapping the proper individualized resources around the child care provider to increase quality to the highest standards. This model addresses availability of quality care in rural areas based on the nimble strategy of targeting and recruiting participation of small programs in the critical areas of shortage.

Because Oregon already did this for preschoolers across our state, I know we can do this for our youngest children. A recent visit to a home-based provider in a rural community helped me realize the importance of assisting our providers in delivering high-quality infant and toddler care. The provider’s home that I visited was everything I would have wanted for my own children’s early childhood education – warm, nurturing care; intentional, planned bilingual experiences and environments; and nutritious foods that reflect the food we eat at home. During our conversation, the provider let me know that she was thinking of telling the parents of the eight-month old in her care that she would not be able to offer services for the infant any longer because doing so was taking time away from her ability to attend to the preschoolers. In that moment, I understood that we needed to do much more to ensure providers don’t feel like they need to make that choice. Baby Promise will give child care providers like her the opportunity to provide infants and toddlers with the experiences and environments that will ensure they thrive.

What Success Will Look Like

We will know we are successful when:

  • We see an increase in the availability of high-quality programs serving infants and toddlers in the communities that need it the most.
  • Our supply of licensed infant and toddler care is quality rated, publicly funded, and is meeting the needs of low-income families and other priority populations.
  • Families tell us there is a range of options and accessible, affordable choices for infant and toddler care.
  • Our providers report having supports, resources, and adequate compensation to care for infants and toddlers.
  • Home-based providers are connected through networks that allow them to access the kind of tailored, professional learning that’s specific to caring for infants and toddlers.
    We see an increase in continuity of care, allowing for young children to develop the bonds with caregivers that are critical for their health and development.

Stay tuned! I am so thrilled to be in Oregon as we get ready for Baby Promise!

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